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Madhumita murder: CBI walks in as CID is shown the door

Lucknow, June 17: Amid claims by the CID that it had unearthed evidence linking poet Madhumita Shukla to Amarmani Tripathi, the chief minister today suspended two of the department’s officers and decided to bring in the CBI.

Chief minister Mayavati said a “written request” from the murdered poet’s mother prompted the move.

In another surprise decision, Mayavati said Tripathi —whom she had dropped from the Cabinet after allegations of his hand in the murder — would not have to wait for reinstatement till the CBI probe got over.

“He (Tripathi) called on me yesterday and pleaded his innocence. I told him that if Madhumita’s family was willing to give it in writing that he had no hand in the murder, I will take him back in the ministry immediately,” the chief minister told a hurriedly convened news conference.

Earlier, she had assured Tripathi reinstatement if the CID gave him a clean chit after its month-long investigation.

But CID director-general Mahendra Lalka and a superintendent of police heading the investigation were suspended for “not completing the inquiry” by the deadline Mayavati had set on May 17.

She cited the need to be fair to Tripathi, when asked why she would not wait for the CBI report before reinstating him.

Mayavati used the same argument of impartiality for her other decisions today. “I have asked for a CBI probe because I wanted to be fair to Madhumita’s mother who had made a written request,” she said.

“But since the CBI is likely to take time, I don’t want to be unfair to Tripathi...”

Reeling from the suspensions, state police officers said they failed to understand Mayavati’s logic. “Madhumita’s family had been changing their statements frequently. Such momentous decisions affecting a murder inquiry could not be taken at the whim and fancy of anyone,” a senior officer said.

He was referring to the repeated flip-flops by Madhumita’s family since May 17, when they had first requested in writing for a transfer of the probe to the CID from civil police.

After Mayavati promised on June 14 to hand over the case to the CBI if the family so desired, they sent her three contradictory fax messages. The first message sent yesterday on behalf of Madhumita’s mother, Shanti, requested the case be handed over to the CBI. The following two messages said Shanti was withdrawing the request as she had full faith in the CID.

Shanti said over phone from her Lakhimpur home that there was no question of her giving anyone a clean chit as she had not named anyone in the FIR. “Now that the chief minister has ordered a CBI probe, we want the truth to come out,” she said.

At the silent CID state headquarters, an agitated official, who refused to be named, said: “A murder investigation requires collection of evidence from many agencies and it cannot be completed to suit anyone’s convenience.”

CID sources said their investigations, so far, had unearthed sufficient evidence of Madhumita’s proximity to Tripathi. “She had been travelling on concession air and rail coupons bearing the name ‘Mrs Tripathi’. Her cellphone has records of numerous calls she was making to the minister — the last one was made a few hours before her murder,” a CID official said.

If Mayavati’s move to bring in the CBI was aimed at silencing the Opposition, she appeared to have failed.

“If she takes back the (former) minister simply on the statement of the deceased’s family members, it shows she has no trust in the CBI,” state Samajwadi Party general secretary Shiv Pal Singh Yadav said.

Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tewari said he feared Mayavati’s decisions would put Madhumita’s family under more pressure.

“There have been allegations by the (poet’s) family members that they were being intimidated into giving certain statements. Now that she (Mayavati) has promised the tainted (former) minister’s reinstatement, he will try to make them give him a clean chit by hook or by crook,” he said.

Tripathi is said to have a criminal record.

Justifying her decision to suspend the CID officers, Mayavati said “I have personally taken it very seriously” that the department has failed to submit its report in time and, further, did not seek more time.

Five junior members of the probe team will get adverse entries in their service records, she said.

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